Iteration is not design
Todd Olson

But if designers avoid ‘Design Darwinism’ would their products end up resembling the the Dodo or the Giraffe?

Consider that for all of those failed Google products, they’ve also produced Gmail, Inbox, Search, Android, Maps, Allo, Calendar, Keep, Newsstand, Music, Daydream, Duo, Fit, Home, Chromecast, Photos, Project Fi, Street View, Pay, and dozens of other applications that are either world-changing, persona-defining, or at least very well designed and delightful to use. Google’s iterative app catalog may look like the a Natural History Museum of extinct software products, but it isn’t, the DNA of those expired applications is present in their ever present, ever popular applications today.

From my list, Allo is an app that seems destined for the genetic dustbin: niche audience, duplicating features of other apps, no real compelling features separating it from any of the dozen other IM apps. And yet, from it Google debuted (and iterated on) the Google Assistant, the technology that powers Google Home, the Google Pixel, Google Now, and the AI future of the company. And while Google Assistant’s humble upbringing in Allo is an oft forgotten feature of the app, or while Duo (Allo’s video cousin) is languishing in various states of disuse, their genetic DNA seems to live on in Google’s next big project — a competitor to Slack called Hangouts Meet.

I’m thinking of this more so from an engineers perspective, of course, not a designers, but I think the analogy to the evolution of species is a strong one, so strong that I think it’s utterly convincing.

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